Abortion in the Courts: Mexico, El Salvador, USA
- Papua New Guinea An Urgent Appeal for Donations

14 September 2016


Urgent Request for Donations towards Costs of Appeal against Five-Year Sentence
In January 2015, Leoba Davana and her husband, James Channel, made the difficult decision to terminate their pregnancy. Living in extreme poverty in a remote area of Papua New Guinea with two young children, no access to contraception, and having previously experienced a life-threatening pregnancy, they did not feel able to care for another child at this time.

After consulting a local health worker who assisted Leoba with procuring medications to cause a miscarriage, Leoba suffered two days of bleeding and other complications, and returned to the clinic, where the police were summoned.

In October 2015 both Leoba and James were sentenced by the National Court in Arawa to five years in jail. They were charged not for procuring an abortion, but rather, for the “unlawful killing of an unborn child”.

PNG’s abortion laws are some of the most restrictive in the region. The Criminal Code (originating from 1865 and included unchanged in the independent State of PNG legal code at independence in 1975) articulates that the provision of abortion is illegal, unless the continuation of the pregnancy is a significant threat to the woman’s physical or mental health. It must also be managed by a registered health practitioner and recommended by another health practitioner.

Their case will be reviewed by the PNG Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

Funds are urgently requested to help cover legal costs. To date K16,593.94 has been raised of the required K50,000. About US $11,000 is still needed. Please support them by donating at:

Account Name: Safe Motherhood Alliance PNG
Bank: ANZ, Harbour City, NCD, Papua New Guinea
BSP: 018-912
Account Number: 14402886
Swift Code: ANZBPGPX
Ref: SvD

Phone: +675 71578795



Mexico Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal
When Patricia Mendez, age 21, miscarried in March 2015, she says police and detectives were called into the hospital ward to watch as she writhed in pain and expelled the dead, 20-week fetus, doing nothing to help her. She was made to sign some papers afterwards and then, she said, a nurse held the fetus to her face and said: “Kiss him. You have killed him.” Then her ex-boyfriend’s family held a funeral for the fetus, that she was forced to attend.
Mendez was charged with having an abortion and could potentially be subjected to the “educational measures” provided for by the Veracruz law. Nobody really knows what the term means, since it is not defined and has yet to be enforced. So far Mendez’s legal team has stalled the charges through appeals. After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case it’s not clear what will happen, lawyers say.

… Earlier this year in the northern state of Sonora, a judge issued a ruling denying a 13-year-girl a legal abortion on the grounds that she was not a victim of rape but of statutory rape...



Lawyer Dennis Muñoz, San Salvador
War against women in El Salvador, where miscarriage = homicide
The congested road to El Salvador’s Ilopango Women’s Prison is lined with rundown snack shops and pink dogwood trees. Dennis Muñoz describes the concrete complex, which operates at 900% capacity, as “living hell.” Few know the prison better than him. For the past eight years, he’s made countless visits to his clients there. In addition to being young and poor, the women all have one thing in common: they suffered miscarriages or complications at childbirth and were sentenced up to 40 years in prison for aggravated homicide.

“We have no rights,” said 32-year-old Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, who has been in prison for nine years after she lost consciousness in the bathroom of her workplace and delivered her baby stillborn at nearly nine months. She was sentenced to 30 years. Vásquez is one of “
Las 17”.

Last month, right-wing parliamentarian Ricardo Andrés Velásquez Parker introduced a bill that could increase the maximum penalty of abortion from eight to 50 years — the same as aggravated homicide. “One day I hope these women won’t have to deal with this… one day this country won’t be in the dark ages,” said Muñoz. Just two days before, he received yet another call from the family of a 23-year-old woman whom he will represent in a few months. “Until then, they can all call me names…until then, I will just nod proudly.”




El Salvador: I had a miscarriage. The judge accused me of murder,
by Irene Baque et al, Guardian, 15 December 2015

Vea en español


Appeals Court fails to hold Catholic hospital responsible for denial of care
On 8 September, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case of Tamesha Means, a Michigan woman who sued a Catholic-affiliated hospital for negligence by following religious directives in how they managed her miscarriage.  
When Means first went to Mercy Health, the only hospital in her county, she was 18 weeks pregnant. Her waters had broken, and she was beginning to miscarry. Doctors and staff at the hospital, which is operated by a multi-billion dollar network of Catholic-run hospitals, told Means there was no medical care they could offer her because treatment would mean the termination of her pregnancy: a violation of Catholic directives preventing any care resulting in the death of a fetus, even a non-viable one. She was sent home by which time she had a fever and infection, for which she was only given aspirin, when she began to deliver.

This decision rests in a legal doctrine dating back more than 100 years. Both the federal district court and the court of appeals ruled in part that this doctrine prevents courts from reviewing cases like Means’. Some patients’ only choice is to seek care at a Catholic-affiliated hospital. If courts are unwilling to hold those institutions accountable for delivering to their patients shoddy and sub-standard care, where does that leave patients like Means, whose lives are being put at risk in the name of religion?... 


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Editor: Marge Berer

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